Measure would require Pennsylvania’s participation

HARRISBURG, March 13, 2013 – Senate Democrats announced sweeping legislation that would compel Pennsylvania to participate in the expansion of Medicaid so that 650,000 more Pennsylvanians would be covered by health insurance.

The lawmakers said they are taking this action because Gov. Tom Corbett has refused to allow Pennsylvania to join a litany of other states that have agreed to expand Medicaid to cover persons making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

They say that legislation is required if Pennsylvania is going to participate.

“There is simply no good reason why Pennsylvania should not be participating in the expansion of Medicaid,” Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), the Democratic Leader, said. “It makes no sense to deny health care for 650,000 people, turn down $4 billion in federal money, give thumbs down to an estimated 41,000 jobs and refuse the more than $670 million that would be generated from savings and new revenues.

“Senate Democrats believe legislation needs to be passed so Pennsylvania can expand the Medicaid program to cover more of our citizens, so we are introducing legislation that compels Pennsylvania to participate.”

As a result of the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the Affordable Care Act decision (ACA), states were able to opt into the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provisions. The court left the decision on whether to participate in the hands of the governors and state leaders.

“The governor has provided huge tax giveaways to Pennsylvania’s largest corporations, costing the commonwealth almost $900 million,” said Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/

Montgomery), the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. “He should be able to help low-income working people.”

“Republican governors from surrounding states including New Jersey and Ohio have signaled that they want citizens of their states who qualify to access health care,” said Hughes. “This should not be a political issue and those who need access to health care should be able to get help without becoming the pawns in a partisan battle.”

Senate Democrats said that they don’t understand the governor’s hesitation and his delay tactics that prevent participation.

“The lives of real people are on the line. The time for delay is over,” said Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware), the Democratic Whip. “More of our citizens should have access to health care, because that’s the intent of the law of the land. And we refuse to stand idly by as the governor fails to deliver for our most vulnerable citizens.

“We need to pass legislation that will ensure that Pennsylvanians in need of health care are covered. The General Assembly and the governor have a moral responsibility to act in order so we can make this expansion happen. We have the collective responsibility here to lead.”

Senate Democrats said that they have incorporated a provision in their legislation that allows Pennsylvania to back out of the program if the federal funding commitment evaporates. They said that this provision should allay fears expressed by the governor that Pennsylvania would be on the hook for funding the whole program if federal dollars disappear.

“Introducing legislation to require Pennsylvania to participate in the expansion of Medicaid is the right thing to do,” Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-Philadelphia), Democratic chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said. “We need to be aggressive and use the resources that we have available to make health-care choices available.”

The Democrats said that there should also be a discussion of additional coverage options in the wake of Commonwealth Court’s decision that invalidated the diversion of tobacco funds that funded the state’s adultBasic insurance program.

The adultBasic program covered low-income working Pennsylvanians and was eliminated by the Corbett administration citing the cost of the program and lack of funds. The program was paid for by tobacco settlement monies and contributions from health insurance companies.

“In light of the court’s decision, there is an opportunity for a dialogue to be reopened about how we can restore the adultBasic program, create a new program or augment the expansion of Medicaid so that more Pennsylvanians can be covered,” Sen. Michael Stack (D-Philadelphia), Democratic chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, said. “We can do more now that the court has said that tobacco monies cannot be diverted.”

“We should be aggressively pursuing options that produce a more extensive health insurance network.”

The ACA covers 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first three years. The percentage is gradually reduced over time but the federal government will pick up at least 90 percent of the cost.

Senate Democrats said that they expected the bill to be formally introduced next week.